Why Scribbling is Important
It is important for children to scribble because it teaches them that print on a page represents what they are thinking or saying: that writing (scribbling) has meaning.
What does your child enjoy? How can you add print to it? For example, after a trip to the park, ask your child to draw a picture while you write the names of the objects drawn. If your child likes to play with toy animals, pick up some library books on those animals (both fiction and informational) and include those in the play area. Ask your child to write (scribble/draw) the ending of each book before you read it. As time goes on, your child will become better at drawing pictures and even making letter-like marks to write her thoughts.
Stages of Scribbling
Stage 1: Marks (Toddlers: age 1-1/2 years to 3 years)
- Love to make marks, love the movement, love to see what they have made.
- Toddlers lack good motor control and hand-eye coordination.
- Lack direction or purpose for marks.
- Does not mentally connect own movements to marks on page.
- Begin to make marks with intention and not by chance.
Stage 2: Shapes (Preschool: age 3-4 years)
- Enjoy mastery over lines.
- Masters basic forms, discovers connection between own movements and marks on page.
- Close a line and you have discovered a shape!
Stage 3: Designs
- Lines, dots, and shapes combine for beautiful designs.
- The child understands that print carries a message.
Stage 4: Thoughts (Ages 4-5 years and up)
- Communicate with outside world through drawing, expresses personality and relationship to symbols drawn.
- Combines basic forms to create first symbols.
- Drawing something helps you know it better and leads to more thinking.
- When lines and shapes are put together, they make you think of something. (Example: a circle shape, straight lines and radials make Mommy!)
- Uses one hand regularly.
- Draws, writes or scribbles from left to right across the page.
Stage 5: Letters
- Usually begin with making their own name.
Stage 6: Words
- Strings letter to spell words.
- Writes with spaces between words.
- Writes uppercase and lowercase letters.
- Writes some known words.
- Writes with some punctuation.
All children go through these developmental stages of art. Art prepares children for other cognitive achievements that adults are anxious about but don’t rush your child! If a child has been allowed to have plenty of art experiences, most children will be well-prepared for writing, language arts, science and math by ages five and six.
Don’t put the cart before the horse! Celebrate all writing attempts!!
Scribbling is really learning!
Success with Writing
- Keep the messages predictable at first so your child will find them easy to read.
- Model the process daily, and have your child write his own messages two to three times a week.
- Give your child time to write every day.
- Support your child as she sounds out words. Ask, “What do you think it starts with? Listen to me say the word. Do you hear any other sounds?”
- When you write or draw something, tell your child that the writing or drawing has meaning by writing the words that the picture says to your child on the picture.
- Point to the words as you read. Ask your child to point to words as you engage in shared readings.
- Keep what you write in a book, folder or notebook.
Writing and Building Vocabulary
The following activities can become fun ways to build your child’s vocabulary through saying or writing his name and learning new words as you run errands:
- Look for opportunities to help your child find the initial letter of her own name. Many three-year-olds delight in identifying “my letter” in words seen on TV, labels, and printed on signs.
- Write, display and point out the child’s name often. Print it on his artwork and help him recognize it
- As your child gets older, help her learn to recognize additional words she frequently sees printed in the world around him: for example, a word on a favorite T-shirt, stop sign and other favorites such as “zoo”, “mom” and “dad”.
- Watch TV programs such as Sesame Street with your child and learn the letter song together.